In what has become a yearly ritual, thousands of demonstrators packed into the site of the former US embassy to denounce the country dubbed the “Great Satan” by the leaders of the 1979 Iranian Revolution.
This year’s rally was reportedly the largest in years, following appeals for a large turn-out from organizations like the influential Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Elsewhere in Iran, protesters carried yellow flags with the slogan “Death to America” and burned American flags and effigies of US president Barack Obama during state-organized rallies across the country.
Although there has been speculation in recent weeks about the possibility of a breakthrough in US–Iranian relations, influential factions within the Iranian political establishment still regard the US with suspicion, and have recently made attempts to rouse public anger against the possibility of improved relations with the US.
Although Iranian president Hassan Rouhani has sought to begin mending fences with the US, he issued a statement on Sunday acknowledging Iranians’ sense of grievance against the superpower.
“The American policy started this incident as it concerned the Iranian nation who was to protect their evolution and their independence. The Iranian nation has never attacked any countries and nations in the past several decades,” Iranian president Hassan Rouhani said in his meeting with the cabinet.
He added: “The Iranian nation has always tried to defend their rights if they condemned American policies and also any hostile policies. Iranians had not and will not attack other countries.”
In addition, he also used his Twitter account to write “Iranian nation has never hated any nation—incl. American people. What has been & still is of concern are hostile policies, which we condemn.”
Asked about the impact of chants of “Death to America” on the nuclear talks, Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told Islamic Consultative Assembly News Agency: “Iran’s negotiations about the nuclear energy program are not with US officials; rather, the negotiations are to resolve the nuclear issue with the six major world powers.”
Hardline former nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, one of the unsuccessful candidates in the presidential election in July, defended the seizure of the embassy and the “Death to America” slogan as a protest against an “oppressive” American government.
He said: “Our most intellectual and honest people adopt the ‘Death to America’ slogan. However, it is not a slogan against the American nation; it is against the one percent of the population that supports America’s hostile policies against the world and even against the US.”
Vice President for Executive Affairs Mohammad Shariatmadari, Minister of Education Ali Asghar Fani, Minister of Health Hassan Hashemi and Minister of Information Technology Faraji Dana were among officials participating in the protests.
On November 4, 1979, a group of revolutionary Iranian university students took over the US Embassy and held 52 American diplomats hostage for 444 days. Diplomatic relations between the US and Iran were broken off as a result, and to this day the relationship between the two remains mired in hostility and mutual recrimination.